When specifying a new embedded PC, often the specific Windows version selected is nothing more than an afterthought. This is primarily because most people are unaware that the O/S chosen can have a massive impact on the overall reliability of the industrial PC.
Windows 10 is apparently going to be Microsoft’s last version of Windows, with feature updates added incrementally over time. As part of this new way of thinking, Microsoft have decided that every computer with Windows 10 installed will be automatically updated with the latest features – regardless of whether you want them or not.
For home and business users, this generally makes good sense, but for industrial customers, an unexpected change to the O/S can have a major impact on the functionality of a system. This is where Windows 10 IoT Enterprise LTSB comes in – it allows you to manage which Windows updates are installed, or even disable updates completely.
Windows 10 IoT Ent LTSB (or Windows 10 Enterprise Internet of Things Long Term Service Branch, to give it its full name!) also includes some technical advantages over Windows 10 OEM, that help to further improve the reliability of your embedded computer. These include:
Unified Write Filter (UWF): Write protect files, folders or partitions to prevent corruption of data from sudden power loss and stop unauthorised modification of the system – reboot and it will be factory fresh.
USB, keyboard and gesture filters: Manage which USB devices, keyboard shortcuts and gestures are allowed on you system. For example, you can disable Ctrl + Alt + Del or prevent USB pen drives from being detected.
Dialogue box & notification filter: Control which notifications will be seen by the user and provide automatic responses to dialogue boxes.
App Locker, Layout Control, Shell Launcher & App Launcher: These all add additional control over how Windows appears and functions
In addition to the obvious technical advantages, Microsoft have revised their approach to licencing costs. Now, if you are building a lower performance system, you will pay significantly less for your Windows licence when compared to an all-singing, all-dancing Core i7 behemoth – which seems fair enough.
If the additional technical features and lack of forced updates are not enough to convince you, then you might also be interested to know that each version of Windows 10 Enterprise IoT LTSB will be available at least 10 years from launch. Microsoft are suggesting that a new LTSB version will be launched every 2 years or so.
Also, industrial PCs using Win 10 Enterprise IoT LTSB can be shipped worldwide, whereas those using Win 10 Pro OEM can only be shipped within the particular territory where they were manufactured, according to Microsoft’s licence terms.
So, all of this IoT stuff sounds great, what’s the catch? Well, if you need to use Edge, Cortana or the Windows Store, you’ll need to look elsewhere, as none of these features are included with IoT Enterprise. Apart from that, you’re good to go.
You still have access to all of the business features that you’d find on Windows 10 Pro, including Domain Join, Group Policy Management and BitLocker, as well as all of the Enterprise level features, including Direct Access, AppLocker, BranchCache and Smart Screen Control with Group Policy.